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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ICY MOUNTAIN ROADS

down the hill


In the night we had an inch or two of snow with a film of ice on top of it. The road was scraped yesterday, but in the night received a thin layer of ice and some blown snow. Driving out of here this morning was ice all the way to hwy 18, 4 miles, half of it downhill and curvy. It's a good exercise for staying in the present moment. It will keep you there. I've driven on ice for so many winters I'm used to it. Last year was the first winter with Jr's car. That winter was characterized by quite a lot of snow and ice. Throughout the winter I took the car with new tires and front wheel drive through every kind of winter road surface. I appreciated the variety, because I was wanting to get the feel of the car and see how it did on ice. I'm comfortable with the car now, knowing its limit is a fairly steep uphill grade on ice. An upward inclination is fine until it takes a steeper grade, then the car slides backwards, turns around in the sliding and points down the hill with front right wheels in the ditch. That's ok I know I can drive out of the ditch. That was the only time I've lost it. Wasn't certain it would make it, assessed nothing is lost by trying, even if it doesn't work out.


What I don't want is to lose traction going down hill. Then it's like watching a movie on the windshield I have no control over. How I avoid it--don't lose traction. This applies for uphill too. Lose traction and start sliding sideways into the ditch. It's not as easy to get out of a snowy ditch going uphill as downhill. Once stopped on an uphill grade, it's a bit awkward getting traction trying to start uphill momentum on ice. What do you do? Keep the momentum going and keep it in the road. When I lose traction going uphill, I let up on the gas a bit and give just enough gas for the front tires to get enough grip to go. I gradually pick up speed so the tires won't lose traction from going too slow, keep the foot steady on the gas with no letup or surges.This evening I lost traction coming up the mountain only once, and that for no more than 3 seconds.


Drove to town this morning primarily to go to Selma's coffee shop. By now I have full confidence with the car, even with tires a year old, satisfied I can go anywhere in less than half a foot of snow. I've driven on ice aplenty in 3 4wheel drive pickups and one rear wheel drive before this front wheel drive Buick Century, my old man car. I like 4wheel best on ice and snow, but front wheel is so close to 4wheel in what it will do, the difference doesn't matter. It was a beautiful drive all the way to town, landscape painted white, trees like pencil lines on white paper. I drove slowly over the ice on the level part of the road because I did not want to be out of control for very long if the tires lost traction. Once on the highway the road was clear and there was no ice in the one place there is always ice. There might have been some black ice early this morning, though dumptrucks have been piled high spreading salt on the highways keeping them clear. I have to give it to the county's road crew. They do excellent work year round. In the winter, they're on top of it.


At Selma's it was warm inside. She said it had been a slow morning. I ordered my usual Kenyan coffee, which I find so satisfying when I drink it there or at home, it starts the day right. I want to drink it all day. It has that delicious a flavor for my palate. It's a relaxing flavor. Coffee tasters say it has a muddy taste. I believe I get what they mean. I'd prefer to call it a honey textured coffee without the mild bitterness of grocery store coffee. I don't know how to describe it. I appreciate the reference to a muddy flavor, though that doesn't describe it any more than honey does. It's a flavor I like a lot, and don't care to drink any other, because no other satisfies me. Kenyan does. Ethiopian is close in flavor, and I like it, but it's not Kenyan.


In the picture above you can see that I'm keeping the wheels in those two tracks of black, which is road surface. The white is ice. In this place I'm going is a downhill run, using the black tracks to apply the brakes slowing down enough to take the rest of the hill on ice and not lose traction. It feels good to know the roads here so well after 35 years of driving them. The mountains are good driving instructors. The first Nascar drivers were mountain liquor runners. These cold, icy days are rough, especially today with wind and ice crystals flying over the ground, blasting any exposed skin, like face, neck and ears. I go in weather like this like I go any other time of year. The car starts easily when it's cold, drives well on ice, so no problem. Don't worry, be happy.

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